A personal story - remembering my family through photography
In what would have been his 101st year, I thought I'd share with you some personal memories of my wonderful Grandad, Reginald Ernest Cashmore, a lovely man and talented artist who still inspires me years after his death.
When I was growing up, our house was always full of photographs. There were photos on walls, sideboards and window sills and we had dozens of over-stuffed photo albums crammed into cupboards and drawers.
My Grandad (on my father's side) was also a talented artist and our family photographs competed for space alongside some of his wonderful oil paintings.
I had known that Grandad was also interested in photography, but sadly it wasn't until after his death many years ago that I came to realise just how important photography had been to him. Shortly after Grandad's death, my dad visited me with a large box he had found in Grandad's loft. When I opened it, I found to my delight it was stuffed to the brim with photographs.
I remember being absolutely mesmorised and I spent several days carefully looking through the images. During that time I laughed a lot, cried often and felt overwhelmed and grateful to be able to take a journey back through time and see the faces of my grandparents during their 'courting' years; as newly weds and then as a growing family as each of their children arrived.
I was delighted to discover that on my Grandad's side I could travel even further back into the past. His interest in photography had obviously been a life long affair, just like mine. He had kept photos of himself as a cool teenager with a motorbike, a cheeky boy (he had the same mischevious smile on his 5 year old face that he had on his 83 year old face!) and a newborn baby. Then I found myself looking at the faces of my great grandparents, who had died long before I was born - and then my great, great grandparents! It seems that photography has always played an important role in my family and I am so grateful that it has, because I have been able to introduce my own children to their relatives and they, like me, have been fascinated to look back down the generations.
When he was alive, I often discussed photography with Grandad as he'd show me some snaps he'd taken around town, on holiday or at a flower show, but I hadn't realised just how passionate he had been about keeping so many photographs from the past. I will always be grateful to him for doing so - as he has kept my family alive for me.
I do worry in this digital age that so many family's photographs are being lost. Do you realise we are in danger of losing an entire generation's worth of memories? We no longer bother to print photos, preferring instead the instant gratification and ease of digital capture. How many of us have photographed an entire family Christmas on our mobile phones only to lose all the images when our handset is upgraded? How many memory cards are accidentally wiped, lost or corrupted? How many years worth of our children's lives are gathering dust on a USB or disc in a dark cupboard somewhere? If you think I'm being dramatic, consider how fast technology is changing these days. As we have grown more reliant on digital media to save all our photos and home videos, technology hasn't exactly been sitting idly by doing nothing. How many of us have recordings of our older children's lives on VHS tapes but don't now own a video player? Remember the 5 1/4 inch floppy discs? Will your current computer read them for you? In a couple of decades, can we be absolutely sure that our carefully stored USBs,CDs and DVDs will still be a viable format? The only way to ensure we don't lose precious family memories is to take action while we still can to change our digitally stored images into prints or wall art that will survive the test of time.
Photographs are so important. They give us a way to connect with the past whether that be our own childhood or that of our great, great grandparents. We owe it to ourselves, and to them, to ensure we don't lose this vitally important link.
There is one photograph from my Grandad's collection which is very important to me. This now sits in a frame on my office desk. It shows my Grandad as a beaming 5 year old boy, dressed in a top hat, holding a cane and standing next to a smiling little girl. Written on the back of the image are the words "Albert St, Hillfields. Reg Cashmore and neighbour Edna Watson 1919" For me, this one image helped determine my career and put me on course to establishing my own photography business with a focus on child portraiture. I regularly look at the cheeky, fun loving, smiling little boy on my desk and realise that my Grandad is immortal. He will always be here with me; he will always have a smile for my children and in future years, for my Grandchildren.
Most importantly, he will never be forgotten.
Thank you Grandad. I love you.
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